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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   14 August [1863]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Aug. 14th

My dear Lyell

I was very glad to get your letter & congratulate you on finding the Arctic shells: I looked long there in vain. It is really a grand case.—2

Hunt sent me a copy of his paper,3 & I was much struck with it; but Dana made some good remarks on caution necessary.4 By the way I fear poor Dana will never do much more work. I heard from him 2 or 3 months ago, & he said that he was forced to be very cautious in all mental exertion.5

I am very glad to hear that the Antiquity goes on selling so well;6 but if it gets another edition of “Origin” I shall not be grateful; for I dread the very thought of that job.7

Have you seen Benthams remarks on Species in his address to Linn. Soc: they have pleased me more than anything I have read for some time.8

I have no news, for I have seen not a soul for months & have had a bad spring & summer, but have managed to do a good deal of work. Emma is threatening me to take me to Malvern & perhaps I shall be compelled, but it is a horrid waste of time.9

You must have enjoyed N. Wales, I shd. think; it is to me a most glorious country.10

I do not know whether you will have heard of the approaching marriage of my sister Catherine to Mr. Langton, who married Emma’s sister: I believe that the marriage will answer well to both.—11

If you have not read Bates’ book; I think it would interest you.12 He is second only to Humboldt in describing a Tropical forest.13 Talking of reading I have never yet got the Edinburgh, in which I suppose you are cut up.—14

With kind remembrance to Lady Lyell—15 Ever yours | C. Darwin

P.S. I answered the Manchester Pigeon man for you.—16


The year is confirmed by the reference to the forthcoming marriage of Emily Catherine Darwin and Charles Langton; see n. 11, below.
The letter from Lyell has not been found; however, see K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 379. In the letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 [August 1863], CD mentioned that Lyell had informed him that he had found ‘Trimmers Arctic shells on Moel Tryfan’. Joshua Trimmer reported finding broken fragments of the shells of marine molluscs on Moel Tryfan, and argued that their presence indicated that they were deposited when the summit of Moel Tryfan was submerged beneath the sea (Trimmer 1831). CD had pursued fieldwork on Moel Tryfan in 1842 but had not found shells (‘Ancient glaciers of Caernarvonshire’, pp. 184–5 (Collected papers 1: 167)).
CD refers to the American military engineer Edward Bissell Hunt, and his paper in the American Journal of Science and Arts on the Florida coral reef (Hunt 1863); this offprint is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
James Dwight Dana was one of the editors of the American Journal of Science and Arts; Dana appended long editorial footnotes to Hunt 1863, drawing attention to what he and CD had written on the formation of coral reefs in Dana 1851–2 and 1853, and in Coral reefs. Coral reefs was published in 1842. See also Correspondence, vol. 2. Dana’s main reservations related to Hunt’s estimates of the chronology of coral reef formation, which he argued would be complicated by changes of sea-level during the post-Tertiary period (Hunt 1863, p. 209 n.).
CD appears to refer to correspondence that followed his letter to J. D. Dana of 20 February [1863]; no letters have been found. However, see letter from J. D. Dana, 5 February 1863 and n. 3.
The reference is to Antiquity of man; the first edition appeared in February 1863 (C. Lyell 1863a), the second in April (C. Lyell 1863b), and the third in November (C. Lyell 1863c). See Grayson 1985, p. 106.
The third edition of Origin was published in 1861, and the fourth in 1866 (Freeman 1977, pp. 85–6).
George Bentham delivered his presidential address to the Linnean Society on 25 May 1863 (Bentham 1863). See also letter to George Bentham, 19 June [1863] and n. 2.
CD intended to take a course of hydropathic treatment at Malvern, Worcestershire, if his health did not improve (see letter to W. D. Fox, 23 May [1863]). According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), CD was at Malvern Wells between 3 September and 12 or 13 October 1863.
CD visited north Wales on eight occasions between 1818 and 1842 (Freeman 1978).
On 8 October 1863, Emily Catherine Darwin married Charles Langton, widower of Charlotte Wedgwood (Emma Darwin (1915), 2: 180–1).
Henry Walter Bates’s account of his eleven years as a naturalist in the Amazonian region of South America (Bates 1863) was published in April 1863 (Publishers’ Circular 26 (1863): 193).
CD refers to Alexander von Humboldt and the descriptions of tropical forests in Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the new continent during the years 1799–1804 (Humboldt and Bonpland 1822). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL. On the inspiration CD derived from reading Humboldt, see Correspondence vols. 1–3, and Autobiography, pp. 67–68.
The Wellesley Index identifies James David Forbes as the author of the review of Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a) in the July issue of the Edinburgh Review ([J. D. Forbes] 1863).
Mary Elizabeth Lyell.
This individual has not been identified.


‘Ancient glaciers of Caernarvonshire’: Notes on the effects produced by the ancient glaciers of Caernarvonshire, and on the boulders transported by floating ice. By Charles Darwin. Philosophical Magazine 3d ser. 21 (1842): 180–8. [Shorter publications, pp. 140–7.]

Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

Bates, Henry Walter. 1863. The naturalist on the River Amazons. A record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Bentham, George. 1863. [Anniversary address, 25 May 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): xi–xxix.

Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Coral reefs: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1842.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dana, James Dwight. 1851–2. On coral reefs and islands. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 11 (1851): 357–72; 12 (1851): 25–51, 165–86, 329–38; 13 (1852): 34–41, 185–95, 338–50; 14 (1852): 76–84.

Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.

[Forbes, James David.] 1863. [Review of Charles Lyell’s Antiquity of man and other works.] Edinburgh Review 118: 254–302.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Grayson, Donald K. 1985. The first three editions of Charles Lyell’s The geological evidences of the antiquity of man. Archives of Natural History 13: 105–21.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Trimmer, Joshua. 1831. On the diluvial deposits of Caernarvonshire, between the Snowdon chain of hills and the Menai strait, and on the discovery of marine shells in diluvial sand and gravel on the summit of Moel Tryfane, near Caernarvon, 1000 ft above the level of the sea. [Read 8 June 1831.] Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 1 (1826–33): 331–2. [Vols. 4,9,11]


Congratulates CL on finding Arctic shells.

Comments on paper by E. B. Hunt ["On the origin, growth, substructure and chronology of the Florida reef", Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 35 (1863): 197–210].

Mentions J. D. Dana’s health.

George Bentham’s statement on species [Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. (1863): xi–xxix].

Praises Bates’s book [Naturalist on the river Amazons (1863)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.296)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4267,” accessed on 17 November 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11